ROUND 14 of the ANZ Premiership is done and dusted and with that came some scintillating performances from the next generation of players. This series will cast an eye over a host of under 21s players that made their way out on court and the impact they had for their respective sides.
The goal shooter continues to grow with confidence week after week and this performance was no different. Able to twist herself inside out and reel in the high looping ball Nweke was once again a great target inside the circle. Although she was down on her usual accuracy her volume did not waver, still managing 52 goals. She was unfazed by the changes thrown at her with both Bailey Mes and Filda Vui spending time out the front as she remained a focal point. Nweke highlighted her ability to just about hold anywhere inside the circle and still somehow remain directly under the post such is her classy footwork and innate timing to get off the hold and pop into the space. Renowned for commanding back space, she also showed her capacity to hold the front space and command the ball adding another bit of diversity to her game. There is no denying that Nweke is just about unstoppable when able to get her arms free and cleanly contest the ball in the air which she did time and time again against the Pulse. She used her improved balance and composure to think her way through the tight one-on-one marking to stand up and lead the way for the Mystics.
It was a relatively quiet performance by Earle as the centre dug in and did the one percenters well. She flew under the radar and just plugged away for the Mystics with her cautious approach down the court and smarts to flick the ball around and wait for an opening to present itself. Earle played a clever role in defence to block the middle channel for the Pulse with her quick footwork and hands over pressure while she also helped out in attack to drive through the middle of the court and open things up. combine her turn of speed and excellent spatial awareness and Earle was a key cog in the Mystics’ engine room.
Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic:
Although her shooting accuracy and volume was down, Williams was still a force to be reckoned with for the Magic. Her composure and smarts reaches beyond her years, able to cleverly dance around the circle and present strongly. Not only is she a threat inside the circle but so too with ball in hand, consistently dishing off clever passes into Caitlin Bassett to keep the Magic scoreboard ticking over. The goal attack was in fine form using her split inside the circle to edge closer to the post while her confidence to back herself from anywhere in the circle was also on full display. The youngster presented nicely at the centre pass, coming over the line with some great pace but it did not stop there as she was constantly on the move and did the basics well to open up the circle. Her clever triangle work kept the defenders on her back and while Karin Burger proved to be a tough challenge she continued to find ways to remain in the game and utilised her turn of speed to have an influence on the game.
It was another solid performance from Gordon who was tasked with the challenging job of combatting Peta Toeava. Gordon took advantage of her speed and quick change of direction to consistently block the drive of Toeava and wreak havoc in the defensive third. She threw her body on the line time and time again in an attempt to win ball back for the Pulse and was a real catalyst in the final term with her energy and desperation. Not only was Gordon strong in defence, contesting each and every pass around circle edge, but she was also influential in attack, sitting nice and high on the transverse line and providing a helping hand.
The goal attack had a real pep in her step from the opening minute of the game, asserting herself on the contest and using her clever body positioning to command the ball. Her work at the centre pass was impressive as was her endurance to get involved in the second phase in attack to edge the ball closer to circle edge. Metuarau showcased her impressive timing to enter the circle and take the ball at full speed and then stop on a dime. She was never far from the play and proved to be a real barometer for the side. Her strength took centre stage throughout the battle as she wore the physicality stemming from both Anna Harrison and Elle Temu and continued her merry way in the goal circle. It was a complete performance from Metuarau as the goal attack also imposed herself in defence, working hard to slow down the transition and keep the ball trapped in the goal third for the Steel credit to her three-foot marking.
Fifita refused to give an inch all game to Maia Wilson working the goal shooter in overdrive. Her constant footwork and movement confused the space for both the feeders and Wilson as she imposed herself from the get-go. Fifita pushed Wilson up nice and high and used her body to apply some physical pressure but not too much that she would draw the eye of the umpire. The goal keeper wasted no time defending the shot with her three-foot marking and well-timed jump to get in the head of her opponents. Fifita was not afraid to go out hunting and backed her speed to cut off any cross court ball coming her way. She also showcased her class to read both the high ball and the ground ball to disrupt the flow in attack and win clean possession for her side.
It was a consistent performance from the centre who just flew under the radar for the Steel. She was cool, calm and collected with ball in hand able to work it around and lower the eyes when needed to deliver into the circle. Heffernan had an influence up both ends of the court with her work rate undeniable and overall netball smarts coming to the fore. She consistently re-offered around circle edge and in the attacking third to allow the likes of Metuarau and George Fisher to reset and inch closer to the post. She often held sway at the top of the goal circle and highlighted her ability to swing the ball from one corner of the court to the other.
She did not have an overwhelming presence in defence but Savai’inaea definitely left her mark through transition. She worked hard to be an attacking option for the Steel using her speed to slice through the defence and open up the midcourt. She offered plenty of support on the transverse line with her smarts to reset the play coming to the fore time and time again.